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February 17, 2011

Opening the Transfer Window

By Spear's

Everyone knows that at Harrods, you can buy anything, from tiger-print Manolos to live white tigers. Now, it appears, you can buy a country too

Everyone knows that at Harrods, you can buy anything, from tiger-print Manolos to live white tigers. Now, it appears, you can buy a country too. At an Arabic breakfast held in the Georgian Restaurant (an obvious combination), Epicure Qatar Equity Opportunities, who run a fund which invests in Qatari equities, tried to sell itself.

The fund is riding on Qatar’s recent successes. The Qatar Holdings takeover of Harrods is well-known, adding to a list of property investments including the Shard at London Bridge and the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square as well as buildings in Canary Wharf.

Thanks to the IMF’s prediction that Qatar will have the fastest growing economy in the world in 2011 – predicted GDP growth rate 19 per cent – other international purchases are in sight. Not content with having one iconic London retailer on its books, Qatar Holdings is thought to be involved in talks with the collapsed Icelandic bank Landsbanki to purchase its 64 per cent stake in Hamley’s.

Christie’s is another prospective purchase for QH. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani told the FT in October 2010 that if a ‘good opportunity’ arose QH would be seriously interested in making an offer on the auction house. Going, going… gone?

One factor the fund played up was Qatar’s unexpected acquisition of the 2022 World Cup. The Qataris have a taste for football, if rumours of an attempted purchase of Manchester United are to be believed, but the fact that they have to build all their stadiums indicates their ambitions are currently ahead of their abilities.

Their ambitions for Harrods are of more immediate concern among the green and pink of the Georgian Restaurant: QH are believed to be considering opening another store in Shanghai. How, we wonder, will the Chinese take to Royal Wedding tea-towels?

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